An Invitation in the Presence of my Enemies – Matthew 11:28-30

yoke (1)Matthew 11-13 chronicles the rising opposition to Jesus.  Again remember that Matthew gathers material thematically.  So it is interesting that in the midst of this we have this sequence in Matthew 11

  • A warning to those who do not repent because of the works of Christ – v. 20-24. this is the very shocking idea that it will go better for Sodom than for the towns near Nazareth.
  • A statement that the Lord hides things from the wise and reveals them to the child-like – v. 25-26
  • A Christocentric claim that all has been given to Christ, including knowledge of the Father. – v. 27
  • An invitation to the weary to take on Jesus’ yoke – v. 2-30

So we have a sort of Calvinist proof text in the verses on God hiding and revealing things – the wise (in their own eyes) can not see what is there because God hides it from them, and yet the childlike (willing to be taught? dependent?) have these things revealed.

This is followed by an open invitation to “all” who are weary and heavy laden, who are invited to “come” and “take my yoke”.  As is often the case the scriptures juxtapose Calvinist and Arminian verses right next to each other.  And most will chose the one they like and explain away or diminish the one they don’t.  Whereas the scriptures are happy to leave them side by side, seeing not a contradiction but some kind of harmony.

What is also of interest, is that the open invitation is “to all who are weary and burdened”.  This does not limit the invitation from Jesus’ enemies.

I have often wondered at the expression in Psalm 23 “You have prepared a table for me in the presence of my enemies.”  Why are there enemies present?  Is the psalmist gloating?  Is the table and the cup that overflows some kind of invitation?  Some of the language of Psalm 23 suggests the desert wanderings of Israel after the Exodus.

In Matthew, one of the most open and inviting passages is placed right in the center of the time where Jesus is being opposed and eventually rejected.  In the middle of this life and death conflict, the invitation remained open “to all who are weary and heavy laden.”  Opposition to Jesus leads to something that is worse than Sodom at the last judgment.  Yet acceptance of Jesus yields a well fit yoke that is not burdensome, but rather a yoke that gives rest.



“She loved Psalm 23 – everyone does!”









I will be leading a memorial service for a woman who used to dress up to watch her church’s worship service on TV.  When i asked about favorite scriptures the answer was, “She loved Psalm 23. Everyone does!”

  • What is it about Psalm 23?
  • It is simple – only 117 words in the NKJV.
  • It is personal – notice all the 1st person pronouns.
  • It covers hard situations – the shadow of death.
  • It is present and eternal –  v. 6.
  • It means that the Lord will never let us slip out of his hands.

  The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord

Whose Staff is that? Exodus 17

Aaron and Hur support MosesIn Exodus 4:2 the Lord says to Moses, “what is that in your hand?”.

“A staff.”  Moses replied.

A simple walking stick, the tool of ancient travellers and of shepherds in the wilderness.  A weapon, a tool to rest upon, an object of comfort to we sheep (Psalm 23).

This is used in Exodus as a sign, when Moses turned it into a serpent, or perhaps a crocodile in conflict with  the lesser snakes of Pharaoh’s magicians.  Moses “staff” eats theirs.

This is used later to bring on 5 of the plagues against Egypt – Moses or Aaron would stretch out their rods and power would go out to bring on the frogs or turn water into blood.

Moses would reach out his rod and the Red Sea would part for a way of escape for Israel and destruction for the army of Pharaoh.

Moses would hit a rock with it in the desert, and water would come out to give life to the people.

Moses would hold it up overhead, giving Israel victory over the Amalekites, but when he sagged under the fatigue of it, they would fail, until Aaron and Hur came to hold up his arms.

(Exodus 4:2,4,17,20;  7:9,10,12,15,17,19,20;  8:5,16,17;  9:23;  10:13;  14:16;  17:5, 9)

However, when Moses spoke to Pharaoh, he tells the king that it is God’s staff that is being held out: “thus says the LORD, ‘By this you shall know that I am the LORD; behold with the staff that is in my hand, I will strike the water that is in the Nile…”

On the others side of victory, the song of Moses says: “You (the Lord) stretched out your right hand; the earth swallowed them.”

In the confrontation with Pharaoh it did not seem to matter if Moses or Aaron stretched out their rods.  This seems to explain it.  They were acting out what God was doing – it was God’s power at work, it was His hand and his rod that struck Egypt and later the Amalekites.

So we do not forget that it is not the great leader or the great tool (which is only a stick after all) but the LORD who brings victory.